Last month, Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum Corp. notified the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) that it released high levels of benzene at its site in Dacono, Colorado, according to The Denver Channel. The release of the cancer-causing chemical was discovered when the oil and gas company was removing an old pump from its site. Lab tests found levels of the toxin were 900 times the amount allowed by the state in the 200 barrels of contaminated water removed from the site. The company also removed enough poisoned soil from the site to fill 383 hot tubs.

Benzene occurs naturally in the environment and since the early 1900s it has been used as a solvent in the rubber industry, oil refineries, chemical plants, shoe manufacturing, and gasoline-related industries in the U.S.. It is also found in cigarette smoke, gasoline and motor vehicle exhaust, and some glues, cleaning products, detergents, art supplies, and paints.

People are most commonly exposed to benzene by inhaling it as a sweet-smelling gas, but it can also be absorbed through the skin or eyes.

Acute exposure incidents, such as the Colorado refinery leak or similar incidents where people are exposed to large amounts of benzene-containing products often grab headlines. These incidents serve as a reminder of the danger of benzene, which is especially lethal for workers within the industries previously mentioned. The American Cancer Society reports that prolonged and frequent exposure increases the risk of developing cancers linked to benzene, including Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML).

AML begins as Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), a group of bone marrow disorders that results when blood cells are damaged by prolonged benzene exposure. Over time, the damaged blood cells multiply, yet it may take years for a worker to exhibit signs and symptoms of the fatal disease.

Symptoms of adult AML include fever, feeling tired and easy bruising or bleeding. While the disease is latent in its development, blood tests may reveal a reduced red cell count, sometimes with a reduced white cell count and/or reduced platelet counts. A test on the blood and bone marrow must be used to diagnose AML.

If you would like more information about benzene exposure and benzene-related cancers such as AML, you can contact Grant Cofer, a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section. He can be reached at 800-898-2034 or by email You can also find more information at

The Denver Channel
Beasley Allen
American Cancer Society

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